Should you get a bike fit in the winter?
Traditionally, the winter months have been considered the slow season in the cycling industry, at least in places where there is a lot of snow or rain. Despite the relatively mild temperatures in Vancouver (compared with the rest of Canada), it does rain a fair bit in the winter and many people opt for indoor riding or other activities all together.
That said, in the last few years, I believe there has been a bit of a shift and this is the first year that is has really been noticeable. I have been doing bike fits for close to 13 years and my busy months have typically been April to August. However, this year (2018), my bike fitting schedule started to get really busy at the middle of February and it hasn't slowed down through to the middle of September, with October and so far November, still a lot busier than previous years.
So whats going on? Is it the fact that we have had a fairly mild fall in Vancouver? That probably plays a roll, but the conversations I am having with athletes coming in to see me paint a pic of a different picture.
The most common reason people have been booking in to see me for their bike fits at this time of the year has been indoor riding, saying they want to make sure their bikes fit them properly before riding indoors over the winter.
Winter has always been the time of the year when most people spend a lot of time riding indoors, either on the trainer at home or at spin studios. Spin studios offer a social environment that makes time on the bike go by faster, coaching and interaction, all things that trainer riding didn’t really offer, until recently.
The introduction of programs like Zwift and various smart trainers that keep you more engaged with the workout you have planned really changed how people ride in the winter months. Many people I have talked to, say that it is actually easier for them to set their bikes on a smart trainer to be used with Zwift for the gaming aspect as opposed to heading out for a spin session. Some argue that it is also more cost effective in the long run.
So trainer riding is more tolerable and much more engaging these days, leading to more people riding more consistently in the winter. From a bike fit point of view of riding the trainer, you are typically moving a lot less on the bike compared with riding outside and things that aren’t quite right might be a lot more noticeable when riding indoors.
It is a smart move to make sure your bike is set up properly before all those stationary miles…
You remember everything / Memories fade
This is more relevant for fall time bike fits vs winter bike fits. Your long rides have not been that long ago and the same goes for your events and/or intense rides leading to events. If you experienced any issues on the bike, you will be able to communicate those effectively with your fitter, because they are fresh in your mind. If you wait until spring time, you might not remember these to bring them up when discussing your fit with your fitter. I have worked with athletes who remembered that their feet kept going numb but couldn't remember how far into the ride, if it was both feet or just one, and other small yet important details, because it has been several months since their last long ride and/or because they have been riding a lot less over the winter months. In addition, your memory will fade and issues that might have felt significant at the time will be classified under 'it wasn't that bad' and will be ignored, only to come back because they weren't communicated and addresses appropriately.
You are chasing goals
You have some goals for next year, small or big.
You want to increase your weekly mileage and enter your first gran fondo
You want to upgrade your racing category and need your bike position to reflect that, allowing time to get used to the changes
You are planning some early season races
You are new to a tri or TT bike and need to get used to that sort of riding... Because its very different!
You want to take it easier this winter and your position is a bit too race oriented, so you want it to be a bit more relaxed for the winter months
The point is, if you are planning on working towards some goals, whatever they might be, your position needs to reflect these appropriately so you are able to put in the winter time work riding a bike that fits your aspirations.
Maybe you are changing things up and plan on riding your bike in warmer weather? Winter time training camps in warmer climates are as good as it gets, that’s for sure, but you should make sure your bike is set up properly.
The same goes if you have some winter time races / events on your calendar or early season events.
Building / buying a new bike
I do a lot of work with athletes who want to build a bike from the ground up, and its one of my favorite things to do! From the frame, to the wheels, to the group-set and all other parts, including bars, stem, saddle, seatpost, cranks, etc. These builds typically take time and starting in the winter makes sense, especially if the frame is a custom or a hand built one and you want to order everything and have it all ready to go in time for some spring time riding.
Even if you aren't building a bike from scratch, buying a new bike in the winter makes sense for a few reasons:
Some brands make only limited amounts of some of their bikes, and they might sell out of your size before summertime
You might be able to find a previous year model on sale
Different bike and/or new equipment
A lot of people use a winter bike to ride outdoors in the winter months. It might be an older road bike with fenders, etc. It could be a cross bike, or a gravel bike... Whatever bike it might be, if you plan on putting the miles in riding it over the winter, you want to make sure it is fitted properly.
As far as equipment goes... Perhaps you got new cycling shoes, saddles, bars in the winter? You need to make sure everything is set up properly (More on this in a separate post, with some case studies, soon)
Injury, changes to the body, Posture & Technique
You got injured or had some health issues. Regardless if they have been resolved or not, you will want to make sure your bike setup is not the culprit. Maybe you had a crash, been in an accident, etc, causing your body's range of motion and the way you move to change, which will affect you on the bike. It is important to make modifications to the fit before you start putting on significant amount of time to avoid additional injuries / issues as a result.
In addition, many people will want to do a 'fit check up' as a preventative measure, to see if I can detect anything that might cause issues down the road, as I can tell if there are imbalances on the bike. Doing that in the winter gives you enough time to come up with a plan to improve / treat these issues and then implement it before you start riding more in the spring and summer. The same goes with posture, mobility and riding technique - these things take time to work on, so it is better to start in the winter.
On the flip side, maybe you didn’t have an injury, but have been working hard on your core, posture and mobility, so your position can improve as a result?
Note that any weight fluctuation, either weight gain (an increase in muscle mass or fat) or weight loss, will affect your position on the bike also and you might want to have your bike fit looked at.
A lot of people tend to train less during the winter, when they are not racing. This means that you might be able to free up the needed 2-2.5 hours a lot more easily compared with spring or summer time when everyone seems to be a lot busier, bike fitters included! Between the end of March and June, the wait time for a bike fit with me is usually close to two weeks for a mid week appointment and ~4 weeks for a weekend appointment. It is a bit of a different story in the winter months.
Even if you do not plan on riding your bike a lot in the winter, at least this way you will have the confidence that your bike is fitted properly when its time to dust it off in the spring... Then all you need to do is get started, building into it gradually.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what time of the year it is... If you think you will benefit from a bike fit or are wondering about one, just book your appointment! We all know that putting things off to a later date means they might never get done!
If you want to book a bike fit, a consultation or a a follow up if you have worked with me previously, now is a great time to do so!